Melrose High School Heritage Room

A member of the Orange Mound community in Memphis poses with a new history exhibit at Melrose High School. Center for Historic Preservation Fieldwork Coordinator Savannah Grandey and Dr. Katie O’Bryan, a former graduate research assistant at the Center, recently traveled to Memphis to install the exhibit at the school. Orange Mound is a Preserve America neighborhood with a rich education, religious, architectural, sports, and music history. Thank you to the Orange Mound community for sharing your memories and places with us.

Walter Brewer Bemis Community Center Dedication

The Center for Historic Preservation would like to congratulate the Walter Brewer Bemis Community Center (WBBCC) on the dedication of its building. The new community center is housed in the historic West Bemis Rosenwald School outside of Jackson, Tennessee, in a former textile mill community. The CHP’s research professor, Dr. Stacey Graham, and director, Dr. Carroll Van West, along with undergraduate student Tara Salvati, worked with the community center’s leadership as part of our Professional Services Partnership Program to develop exhibits for the community center’s heritage room. The dedication ceremony on April 14th included remarks by Dr. Graham as well as Mayor Jerry Gist and County Mayor Jimmy Harris, in addition to WBBCC board members and namesake Pastor Walter Brewer of West Bemis Missionary Baptist Church. The community center will provide a space for youth activities, tutoring, meetings, and special events.

Rock of Ages Wins Award of Excellence

At its recent annual conference, the Tennessee Association of Museums conferred an Award of Excellence on “Rock of Ages: East Tennessee’s Marble Industry,” a temporary exhibition at the Museum of East Tennessee History that was curated by Center for Historic Preservation digital humanities research fellow Dr. Susan Knowles.  You can read more about Dr. Knowles’s marble research in posts she has written for our Southern Rambles blog about the marble industry and its artisans.



Soulsville USA Brochure

The Soulsville USA driving/walking tour brochure is now available! Download it or contact us to get a copy. One of Memphis’s oldest neighborhoods, Soulsville USA is immersed in the nation’s civil rights, music, and religious history. The neighborhood was home to many​ famous individuals and institutions, including Ida B. Wells, Lucie Campbell, Dr. Christopher Roulhac (whose home is shown here), LeMoyne-Owen College, and Mason Temple.

Memphis Heritage Trail Driving Tour

Be sure to get a copy of the Memphis Heritage Trail driving tour brochure! This new publication recognizes the significant contributions of African Americans who helped shape the rich business, cultural, and musical heritage of the city of Memphis. The tour features four historic loops–Civil Rights, Business-Entertainment, Commerce, and Residential–as well as other sites of interest. The driving tour brochure was completed by the Center in partnership with the Memphis Heritage Trail and the City of Memphis, including the Division of Housing and Community Development. Dr. Carroll Van West and Savannah Grandey led the Center’s project team, which also included graduate research assistants Kelli Gibson and Victoria Hensley.

Apply for Professional Services Partnerships for 2018-2019

Our 2017-2018 Professional Services Projects included a partnership to create interpretive materials for three historic African American cemeteries in Knox County.

Does your historic site or organization have a great idea that you’d like some professional help with? The Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University is excited to announce that we are taking applications for our next round of Professional Services Partnerships. These partnerships provide communities with an opportunity to take advantage of our professional staff and graduate research assistants’ knowledge and expertise at no cost. Potential projects cover a wide range of possibilities, including driving tours, historic structure reports, exhibitions, preservation plans, and publications.

Proposals are accepted annually, and the 2018 deadline is June 1. For more information and to download the application form, see our Web site. Applicants will be informed of their status by the beginning of August 2018, and the new projects will begin later that month.

Our 2017-2018 Professional Services Partnership Projects have taken us across the state, and we are currently wrapping up projects in partnership with communities in all three grand divisions. In East Tennessee, we are collaborating with Knox Heritage and the West View Community Action Group to create interpretive materials for three historic African American cemeteries in Knox County. Also in East Tennessee, we are partnering with Crossroads Downtown Partnership, the Main Street program for the city of Morristown, to design a walking and driving tour of local historic resources.

In Middle Tennessee, staff and students are assisting Wolf Gap Education Outreach in assessing the historic resources of Giles County in an effort to identify sites with educational and interpretive potential. In northern Middle Tennessee, we are working with the Upper Cumberland Development District and Clay County community rmembers to develop an exhibition about the county’s history, which will be displayed in the historic Clay County Courthouse. This project follows up on a heritage development plan completed by the Center in 2011.

In West Tennessee, we are partnering with the Walter Brewer Bemis Community Center to create a heritage room that will interpret and house artifacts related to the historic community associated with the former West Bemis Rosenwald School that now houses the community center. This partnership will fulfill part of a heritage development plan completed for the community by Center staff and students in 2014. In addition, Center director and state historian Dr. Carroll Van West has been working extensively with partners in Memphis to create interpretive products to have ready for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this spring. Dr. West, staff, and students have created driving tours, exhibitions, and publications for several Memphis partners, including the Memphis Heritage Trail, Soulsville USA, and the Universal Life Insurance Company.

For more information about the Center for Historic Preservation’s Professional Services Partnerships, please contact Antoinette van Zelm or Lydia Simpson at the Center. They can be reached via e-mail ( or or phone (615-898-2947).

Commemorating the Centennial of Woman Suffrage

Tennessee will kick off its woman suffrage centennial commemoration this weekend with the program “The Road to Suffrage: Knoxville.” On Saturday, March 17, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the East Tennessee History Center, Teaching with Primary Sources—MTSU and the East Tennessee Historical Society will join together to hold a teacher workshop on woman suffrage. Dr. Carole Bucy, who has written extensively about Tennessee’s suffrage leaders and teaches at Volunteer State Community College, will be the guest speaker. Workshop participants will learn about resources for teaching the history of suffrage to K-12 students and share classroom strategies.

On March 18, a public program focusing on the suffrage movement in Tennessee will take place at the East Tennessee History Center from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Dr. Marjorie Spruill, one of the nation’s leading scholars of the woman suffrage movement, will speak on “Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement in America.” This is a wonderful opportunity for Tennesseans to learn from Dr. Spruill, who is especially well known for her work on woman suffrage in the American South. Dr. Bucy will then speak about the suffrage movement in Tennessee in particular, highlighting the women who worked for ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in the Volunteer State. Finally, Knoxville lawyer and community activist Wanda Sobieski will look at Knoxville’s role in the woman suffrage movement. Sobieski played a key part in the drive to place a woman suffrage memorial on Market Square in Knoxville.

Both programs are supported by the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Centennial Collaborative.

Professional Services Partnerships

Graduate research assistant Harris Abernathy explores and documents a historic railroad tunnel in Giles County with community members and our partner organization, Wolf Gap Education Outreach.

The Center for Historic Preservation’s new Professional Services Partnerships, implemented for the first time in 2017-2018, have brought lots of great new projects our way from across the state. Staff and students have been working on projects from Memphis to Morristown and many places in between. In Giles County, programs manager Dr. Lydia Simpson, along with M.A. students Harris Abernathy and Typhanie Schafer, have been working with Wolf Gap Education Outreach to develop new interpretive and educational approaches to the county’s history, discovering great local resources along the way. Other projects include a walking and driving tour of historic sites in Morristown and Hamblen County, also led by Dr. Simpson; exhibit panels for Clay County’s historic courthouse, overseen by assistant director Dr. Antoinette van Zelm; interpretive development for three historic African American cemeteries in Knoxville, and exhibit panels for the Walter Brewer Bemis Community Center (a former Rosenwald school) in Madison County, both led by Dr. Stacey Graham, research professor. Keep an eye out in March for our Call for Proposals for the next round of Professional Services Partnerships!

Winter 2018 Common Bond

Be sure to read the latest issue of our quarterly newsletter, Common Bond, which features stories on music historian Charlie Dahan, who is doing his Ph.D. residency with the Center; our Professional Services Partnership with Knox Heritage and the West View Community Action Group to research and interpret three segregation-era cemeteries in Knoxville; and our ongoing work documenting the many rich resources along the Santa Fe Trail. Don’t miss our Formers’ Corner video with Scarlett Miles, who is a historic preservationist with the Metro Historical Commission in Nashville. We also have several upcoming events listed, including a Tennessee Woman Suffrage Centennial Collaborative program and teacher workshop coming up in March.

Surveying Alabama’s HBCUs

Our survey of Alabama’s historically black colleges and universities is going strong! Ph.D. student Tiffany Momon and Center director Dr. Carroll Van West are pictured on the campus of Stillman College in Tuscaloosa. Center staff and students are collaborating with the Alabama Historical Commission on the project.